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Gabriel Gomez, Ed Markey debate issues at Roxbury Community College

Yawu Miller | 6/19/2013, 2:09 p.m.
Markey makes a point during debate with GOP challenger Gabriel Gomez also at RCC. Photos by KC Bailey and Yawu Miller

The Democratic and Republican Senate campaigns are in full swing as the race for the seat vacated by John Kerry enters its final week.

On the heels President Obama’s visit to the Reggie Lewis Track, Republican Gabriel Gomez and Democrat Ed Markey brought their battle-tested debate to Roxbury Community College during a forum hosted by Mass VOTE and a coalition of 10 community organizations.

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President Obama told an overflowing crowd last week at RCC that he needed U.S. Rep. Ed Markey in the U.S. Senate.

Both candidates opened by stressing their personal histories as the children of working-class, immigrant parents.

As Markey staked out liberal Democratic stands on issues ranging from the nation’s growing income gap to banning assault weapons, Gomez stressed his willingness to work across the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans and hammered, vilified the political culture in Washington DC for its entrenched political partisanship. Gomez also hammered Markey for being a part of it.

“Right now what we have is gridlock in DC,” Gomez said. “We need somebody down there who is going to take the best ideas from both sides.”

The approach Gomez displayed in Sunday’s debate was to underscore areas of agreement with Markey’s more liberal stances.

On issues like tax reform, where Markey advocates increasing taxes on higher-income earners while cutting tax breaks and tax shelters for large corporations, Gomez said Republicans and Democrats should put everything on the table.

“I think we should put everything in the bucket and consider everything,” he said.

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Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins welcomed Obama to RCC’s Reggie Lewis Center.

Markey responded to Gomez by underscoring what he said were Gomez’s partisan stands on key issues – including his opposition to banning assault weapons, his opposition to the national health care program commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” and his unwillingness to support a Constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which allows corporations and other large entities to spend money on political campaigns without limit and without public disclosure.

“This election is historic,” Markey said. “That is why President Obama came here to Roxbury Community College. It’s about our futures, our communities, jobs, economic investment.”

Markey may enjoy a significant home court advantage in Roxbury, where typically more than 90 percent of residents vote Democrat. The challenge for his campaign is to get those voters out to the polls on the June 25 election day.

Gomez also faces a challenge, mobilizing a more conservative Republican and independent voting base, while reaching out to Latinos and blacks. Accompanying Gomez at Sunday’s debate was supporter Regla Gonzalez, Vice President of the League of Latin American Citizens.

But Markey campaign staff and supporters, Latino, black and white, outnumbered Gonzalez’s supporters by a noticeable margin at Sunday’s event.

In the most recent Boston Globe poll, Markey is leading Gomez 54 to 41 points with 4 percent of voters undecided.

Excluding Sunday’s forum and the President’s appearance last week, the Gomez campaign has had a low profile in the black community, noted Sarah Ann Shaw, one of the panelists at the forum.

“I don’t think Gomez is making any headway,” she said. “I haven’t seen any flyers, signs or anything.”